Q: I always associated "Hammer fans" with people over 40 years old...but you're a much younger generation and obviously have a love for this old Studio. What was the first Hammer movie you ever saw--and why have those movies had such a hold on you?
I got into Hammer in a very round-about sort of way. In fact, I was a Hammer fan before I'd ever seen a Hammer movie! When I was much younger, my parents took me on a trip into Glasgow (I think we were going to the theatre) and, while in town, we went into a comic shop. I hadn't graduated to Batman and Captain America quite yet and was still reading kid's comics, but instead of a comic, I begged my mum to buy me an issue of Wayne Kinsey's THE HOUSE THAT HAMMER BUILT fanzine. Christopher Lee was on the cover in full Dracula mode and I'm not sure if it was the image of the wild-eyed Count Dracula or what, but I was pretty much instantly hooked. From there I talked my dad into buying me whatever Hammer we could find on VHS (the first, if memory serves was HORROR OF DRACULA - still my favorite) and here I am twenty-something years later, still obsessed by Hammer!
To answer the second part of the question, I'm not sure why it is that the films of Hammer have such a hold over fans. Obviously, the quality of the actors and the behind the scenes people was of an incredibly high standard, but I think the fact that such a standard was created and maintained with little more than some game actors, some sound stages at Bray and a huge dollop of "can do" spirit at a time when traditional horror movies were being usurped by invaders from Mars and giant insects has a lot to do with it. The people at Hammer really believed in what they were doing, and that's something that can still be felt watching the movies today.
Q: I'm a fan of Hammer and I'm a fan of KING KONG, so when I heard about your Kong screenplay it went to the head of my reading list. How did this "faux" screenplay come about?
That's awesome of you to say so! I honestly didn't expect ANYONE to read the book! I had no idea Hammer were ever mooting a KING KONG remake until I read in Ray Harryhausen's book AN ANIMATED LIFE that he had been contacted to do the effects if the movie ever happened. Now, KING KONG is my favorite film and the work of Willis O'Brien is incredible, but I don't think anyone would argue if I said that Harryhausen far surpassed O'Brien in animation, so the idea of Harryhausen bringing his unique style to Kong interested me. This was about five or six years ago. Cut to the end of last year and a conversation on Facebook between myself, Bruce Hallenbeck and some other Hammer fanatics where someone brought up the unproduced Hammer movies. This led to some speculation as to what Hammer's KONG might've been like, which led to my deciding to try to knock something together - a synopsis at best - for the guys on Facebook. This synopsis became an outline which became a treatment which eventually became the full screenplay.
Q: I like the casting of the roles--you basically split the Carl Denham character from the original movie into good guy Denholm Carlson (Peter Cushing) and bad guy Baxter Wilson (Christopher Lee). Did it help write the script having these actors in the roles?
The script pretty much cast itself. That Cushing and Lee would topline was inevitable though if I'm totally honest, Edina Ronay only got the female lead because of my monumental schoolboy crush on her! Cushing and Lee had, of course, very often played roles similar to Sir Denholm and Baxter Wilson which certainly helped when writing dialogue for them. Rounding out the cast are SHE and ONE MILLION YEARS BC's John Richardson as the honest and dependable young leading man and Michael Ripper as the crusty old Captain Englehorn. Englehorn in particular, was a joy to write since Michael Ripper is one of those actors you can't help but love. The army Brigadier who turns up at the end was fun to write too, with all his stiff-upper-lip. pip-pip-cheerio nonsense. I only hope I did the actors justice!
Q: How has the response been to the Kong script? Are you working on any more "Hammer what-ifs?"
The response has been great and more than a little overwhelming. Like I said, I didn't expect anyone to even read it, much less read it and then interview me for a website! Because of the unofficial nature of the project, I don't make any money off of sales of the book, but just to know that my fellow monster movie fans are enjoying it is more than enough! Another unrealized Hammer project that always interested me was the Hammer/Toho co-production NESSIE, but my work's already done since a script already exists for that. Their proposed Vlad the Impaler movie would've given Christopher Lee a hell of a role to sink his teeth into and I've always been perversely interested in THE SAVAGE JACKBOOT, an unmade Nazisploitation movie with Peter Cushing. I'm not going to have a crack at a script for that one, though!
Q: How can people get the book?
If people want a copy, they can either email me at CallumJStewart@aol.com or go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/CallumJStewart where they can buy the book for the absurdly low price of £3.37 and, if I can put my salesman hat on for a moment, the promo code WHOASHIPPINGUK will get you free shipping in the UK. As I mentioned, I don't make any money from the book - the whole 3.37 goes towards printing costs. It's solely there as a printed-and-bound love letter to a giant ape and a British horror movie studio. I don't pretend that it's on par with even the worst of Hammer, but I certainly had a blast writing it and I hope it's as fun to read.